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Volunteering at Hearts Café was an emotionally rewarding experience. With initial plans to volunteer in Bolivia, I soon changed course when reading about the small and highly-focused work of Living Heart. Being small gives them the flexibility to adapt to changing circumstances and being focused ensures immediate results.

One example of their concerned efforts, which I was fortunate enough to witness, was the provision of bedding and blankets for an elderly lady that was all but forgotten in the  remoteness of the Andes. Such acts of compassion made it easy for me to gain inspiration and energy to inform the many tourists about the work of our sister organisation, Living Heart.

With an exceptionally dedicated and cheery staff, volunteering at Hearts Café was not only rewarding but fun; and seeing the ‘Ah ha’ moment on those customer’s faces who did not realize that 100% of the profits go towards assisting remote Andean communities, was priceless.

Pedro, Australia, 2012

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Confession … Before I embarked on this experience, I had carefully packed my rose-colored glasses into my backpack. Conjured visions of uniformed children, holding hands, and singing nursery rhymes swarmed my imagination. I had been informed about the high altitude of the Cusco and the nearby highlands, and as a Western traveller, I added the precautionary high-altitude-sickness pills to my medical kit. This was the extent of my mental and physical preparation.

What awaited me was something far different. I’m not sure if it was the wailing 2-year old who stood alone in a 5-degree rainstorm with no shoes, no mother and no protector. Maybe it was the abandoned grandmother who slept in sub-zero temperatures with only a piece of plastic to protect her body. Or perhaps it was the disabled children I learned of, who are innocently chained to beds or locked in cupboards because parents don’t have the knowledge, resources or money to provide the required care and treatment.

Either way, my visits to the communities, my interaction with the locals, and the subsequent support that we provided, touched me on some level resulting in a mind-altering change.

As the Marketer of the team, I was responsible for launching creative campaigns, newsletters, social media, advertising and anything that falls under the ‘publicity umbrella’. That said, the team was careful not to pigeon-hole me into a Title. I had the creative freedom and flexibility to implement, recommend and contribute to community projects and campaigns. My input was always welcomed at weekly meetings, my I.T. and marketing expertise were consistently called upon, and my regular visits to the communities were always brightly welcomed.

The women behind the Living Heart operation are some of the most dedicated, motivated and committed individuals I have had the pleasure of working with. Always willing to impart their knowledge and provide support, they included me as part of their team from Day 1.

I consider myself exceptionally lucky to have stumbled across this culturally-unique opportunity, and to have been immersed in this environment.

And next time, I plan to leave the glasses at home.

Annette Cini, Australia, 2012

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I spent 6 very important months working for Living Heart in 2011 after being invited to set up a Sustainable Agriculture project to support the nutrition and education programmes. It was an eye opening experience for me and working in those remote communities was the most challenging and rewarding of times. I spent the first 8 weeks working with the schools, where I was shocked at the lack of materials and resources available and saw first hand how important are the supplies and support provided by Living Heart. Hours from anywhere, small groups of heroic teachers somehow hold together schools and communities against the odds. Over the next 4 months we set up a pilot Educational Greenhouse Project, working in collaboration with other local NGOs, the community and the ‘Municipalidad’ in the planning stages and successfully raising enough funds to begin the project. Seeing the Educational Greenhouse project come to fruition at the end of last year been very satisfying – not least as I know that Living Heart is the very best of organisations to manage this sort of programme due to their intimate understanding of the communities, and the trust they have built with these truly amazing people.

James Cole, UK, 2011

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After volunteering with Living Heart I was completely blown away by their [Living Heart’s] hard work and compassion, with a commitment to ensure all donors’ money goes to those who most need it. Do you know individuals or small organisations with a talent and a big heart? Keen volunteers are also a huge asset. This is how I started. I talked to them about what we are doing in Living Heart and they wanted to help.

I have now done an abseil with ACE (a local organisation here) who offered their expertise free to me for the day. Last year we did an abseil with approximately 15 people raising a staggering £2300!! All I asked was that they raise at least £50 each to take part. I baked some biscuits and brought sandwiches, juice, tea and coffee to make it feel more homely. I also gave them little badges to congratulate them. ACE have offered their services again this year and already I have a number of people wanting to participate.

A great individual has taken my idea of a Scottish night to a whole different level. He has dealings with a lot of bands and has supported me in providing what should be a fantastic live music event that we can repeat year after year. This has been a lot of hard work but will be well worthwhile. Word of mouth and lots of e mails to everyone you know is key, including setting up an event on Facebook, and inviting lots of people to join.

Every small community has a Women’s Rural and/or a Knitting Bee with ladies using ends of wool and creating lots of amazing warm clothes. They just need a little nudge to create the right clothes for Living Heart. I have this with a wonderful group my aunt put me in contact with. I am sure there will be lots in your area too … just ask around.

Heather Buchanan, Scotland, 2011


Friend Raiser Event

From Chicago to Peru, a Friendraiser on October 27th and December 1st.

Before I returned from volunteering with Living Heart from February to June 2012, I made a promise to introduce my family and friends to the work of Living Heart and hopefully raise some funds for Living Heart.

I consulted with my friend Liz and told her that I wanted to host an event at my house to introduce the work of Living Heart.  Liz suggested a Friendraiser instead of a Fundraiser. I liked the idea of creating friends of Living Heart in Chicago. The Evite read Living Heart Peru Celebration. I decided to serve some Peruvian food and make it a fun evening, I printed out photos from the Living Heart website and set up three displays, one of ´´The Weaving School¨, ¨The Educational Greenhouse´´ and ´´The Children of Living Heart´´. My neighbor, Loretta who is an artist helped arrange the photos on poster board using easels.

My son-in-law, Steve who is a graphic designer got very excited about the story of Living Heart and put together a one page flyer with a letter from me, his idea was to have each person leave with an envelope which included information on how to donate if they choose.

On Liz´s advice I gave a short presentation on the work of Living Heart after dinner and I got a lot of good questions. Twenty people attended the event on October 27th and 10 people attended a brunch on December 1st. The response was very favorable both in terms of donations and interest. The friends of Living Heart in Chicago and also one in Boston and New York will stay connected to the work of Living Heart through the newsletter.

I want to thank Liz, Loretta, Steve, Jocelyn and Judy for their help with the Friendraiser and also my friends who attended, for their generous donations in the amount of $2,165.

I recommend having help on the day of the event, with setup of the food and drinks. Also make sure to take pictures, I forgot at the first  Friendraiser. I am attaching the flyer that I gave to each person, I think it tells the story of Living Heart in a compelling way and touches people´s hearts. MARY’S ONE PAGE FLYER

I plan to repeat this event when I return from Peru this year, it is a way to keep my friends connected to the work of Living Heart. I enjoy filling my house with friends, making food and serving it, as well as sharing the story of Living Heart.

If you would like to contact me regarding setting up a Friendraiser for Living Heart I can be reached at “marymeyer1_@hotmail.com” and will be happy to share the benefit of my experience and lend support to your effort.

Mary Meyer Chicago Dec 2012

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This gave me a wonderful insight into the communities. The commitment and how hard working the teachers were was humbling. Some arrive at the pickup point at 6am every morning and walk up to 1 ½ hours in the heat of the day after finishing work! Doing this 5 days a week puts what we do into perspective. I only did this 2 days a week and felt exhausted needing a day to recover!! However working with the children was a real treat and very rewarding. Especially when they see you at the market, run up to you shaking your trouser leg, smile and say “profesora” – this was a wonderful, lasting memory for me. This with the smiling attentive faces, so keen to learn, the amazing scenery surrounding these schools … why wouldn’t you want to do this? I had the experience of bringing up children so knew enough to make creative classes fun. You can do the same and more I am sure.

Heather Buchanan, Scotland, 2011

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Organisation Development & Financial Record Keeping

Using my management experience I was able to help prioritise and plan with the Living Heart team to ensure we were focusing on the key areas, to take the NGO forward. Being part of such a small, like-minded team, full of energy, commitment and compassion, was hugely rewarding. We worked hard every day using our restructured weekly meetings to keep our eye on where we were with each priority and as obstacles were put in our way, as often happens, resolving these together and moving on. The challenge is working in an environment with less infrastructure and adapting without compromising your beliefs and principles, remaining true to our goal and values. People development has always been something I am passionate about so I used this to help develop the team. Helping put all the financial information into order and easily accessible on the computer was challenging but again very rewarding working closely with Ineke and our accountant. Continuing on with Living Heart is so important to me now; to help them reach many more communities. This NGO is so worthwhile why wouldn’t you want to be part of it and help them in whatever way you can?

Heather Buchanan, Scotland, 2011

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Grant Applications

This was a whole new challenge for me and proved to be a big challenge but with lots of new skills gained and a real sense of achievement when complete. I had the pleasure of working on 2 major grant applications. Getting into the minds of the organisation and the committee of people who would be looking at the applications was very interesting; then trying to pitch the application to maximise our chances of being selected. This required discipline to research, write and rewrite. Once I was happy with what I had written taking critical appraisals on board and amending again. The outcome however was a huge sense of achievement and working with a team in such a way was hugely rewarding, bouncing ideas and brainstorming together.

Heather Buchanan, Scotland, 2011

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